You wait months on a waiting list to get your child into the local university or medical clinic for an assessment. You suspect autism but you need an official diagnosis. You feel all kinds of emotions when the long assessment comes to an end and you are told that your child does in fact fall on the autism spectrum. If nothing else, you are hopeful that this is what you need to have in place in order to get your child the services they need…
But then you find out they actually need to undergo additional assessments before the school system will “accept” autism as a diagnosis and provide services. Say what?
Yup, you read that right. There are two different types of autism diagnoses. Let’s break it down.
The first one is a medical diagnosis, given by a doctor (e.g., developmental pediatrician) or a psychiatrist and in some cases in collaboration with a team of other professionals (e.g., speech language pathologist, occupational therapist). This diagnosis is based on symptoms as documented in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) of the American Psychiatric Association. This is the diagnosis that many insurance companies will require, when and if, they cover therapeutic services in the private sector for children with autism.
The second one is an education diagnosis, given by the team of professionals within your child’s school and/or school system. Most often the team that will be working with the child will do the assessment (but this is not always the case, depending on how old your child is and how they enter the county/district to access services). These professionals may include a school psychologist, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, and a special education and/or general education teacher. The school team will conduct their own formal and informal assessments to determine if your child is a candidate for Individualized Education Plan (IEP) services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
It is important to note that SOME school systems WILL accept a medical autism diagnosis and provide your child with school-based services. But be ready that not all school systems readily accept a private clinic’s medical diagnosis.
Hopefully this sheds some light on what next steps you can take in order to help get your child what they need!
By the way – we just discussed this over on our facebook page. Check it out here:
Lots of hugs as you begin or continue this journey.